Blog Post

The Other (Cheaper) Green Jobs Catalyst: Entrepreneurs & $1M Bait

What U.S. lawmakers are hoping to do with part of the $787 billion stimulus package, organizers of this year’s Clean Tech Open want to do with a million bucks: create green jobs. Adapting their annual competition to the current economy, organizers this year are calling on entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, government agencies, universities and NGOs to create 100,000 green jobs in the U.S. over the next five years.

The aptly named “100K Jobs Challenge” reflects a shift in tone from last year, when the main call to arms (issued by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed at the launch) was not to put people back to work, but “to bring to us a way to make it possible for the people of San Jose to install solar on their residences at no net cost” — all with a somewhat laughable deadline of 60 days “to figure it out.”

As in past years, cash prizes and services (a “startup-in-a-box”) are at stake in the Clean Tech Open. More than $1 million worth of prizes will be divvied up among a dozen U.S. startups in the business plan competition, open for the first time to entrepreneurs based outside of California.

Clean Tech Open organizers expect first-time entrepreneurs to play a key role in creating new jobs in clean energy, energy efficiency, green building and air, water and waste management businesses — a group of potential employers often sidelined in the national conversation about green jobs creation. Green-collar job training programs, like those unveiled by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California earlier this week, tend to focus more on things like solar panel installations and sheet metal manufacturing for wind turbines than on entrepreneurship.

Michael Santullo, cofounder of the Clean Tech Open, sees an opportunity there. “Entrepreneurs are the key to re-building the nation’s economy,” he said in the announcement today, adding that many of the participants tend to be first-time entrepreneurs. “They have a great idea, but could really use some assistance.” With today’s slowing flow of venture capital and debt financing? No kidding.

If you want to compete, you should know about these submission deadlines — they’re coming up fast: